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When to accept a plea bargain

Plea bargains are a common way of resolving criminal defense cases in New Jersey. However, despite their frequency, they may not always be in a person's best interests. It may be worthwhile to learn more about plea bargains in order to make a more informed decision about their role in a given defense strategy.

In some criminal cases, the prosecution may prefer to negotiate with an accused person's defense attorney rather than allow the case to go to trial. For example, if the evidence against the defendant is insufficient in some way, a prosecutor may not wish to risk acquittal and instead prefer to let the defendant plead guilty to a less serious offense. However, this can also mean that some defendants may end up pleading guilty in cases they otherwise would have won.

While legal experts acknowledge the importance of plea bargains for reducing the system's caseload, some have commented upon the potential for abuse on the part of some prosecutors. A federal court judge has said that some prosecutors may use the leveraging power plea bargains can give them to compel them to plead guilty in situations where they actually have no case against them. This could potentially lead to innocent people pleading guilty to crimes they didn't commit out of fear of losing a trial and facing severe penalties.

Before agreeing to a prosecution's offer of a plea bargain, someone who finds themselves in a situation such as this may wish to first discuss their options with a criminal defense attorney. As part of the overall defense strategy, an attorney might review the charges and evidence against the client to see whether the prosecution truly has a case. On this basis, legal counsel may then work with the client to decide upon an appropriate course of action.

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